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An Interview with John Hackett

John When did the idea of doing your own rock album come up?
John Hackett: I guess you can blame it on the sunshine! Steve and I (along with Roger King) were in Malta for some Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio concerts at their beautiful Manoel Theatre. This was early in 2002. the promoter, Nigel Camilleri, and a number of his friends asked why I had never done a rock album of my own. And so I started thinking that maybe it was about time ....

GNC: Was it obvious from the very beginning that Nick Magnus and Steve would play on the album (and therefore make it kind of a family/band family thing) or did this happen just by chance?
John: No, to begin with I was making demos and playing everything myself:
guitars, keyboards, singing and programming a drum machine. For a while I
thought maybe this was the best approach as I don't charge much or argue
with myself! But then I kind of hit a wall and found that I couldn't make
the tracks sounds as polished as I wanted. Steve was very helpful - he had
always been enthusiastic about the material, the songs, and he said maybe
now was the time to get some help. He offered to play guitar, I asked Nick
to play keyboards and co-produce and I started working closely with Tony
Patterson. Apart from Tony, it was a bit of a reunion to be working on a
rock album with Steve and Nick - a bit like old times and great fun.

GNC: How did you get in touch with Tony Patterson?
John: I had written a song called Dreamtown. I had the chorus 'Your heart a drum' going round and round in my head for days - it wouldn't leave me alone until I had finished writing the song. I read a quote by Gustav Holst the other day. He said "Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you." I know exactly what he meant by that.
Anyway, as soon as I had the chorus I always heard it sung in my head by Peter Gabriel. At one time I even ontemplated ringing him up and saying something cheeky like, "Do you remember you used to borrow my flute years ago? Well, could I borrow your voice?" It was Nick Magnus who mentioned to me that Tony Patterson had a great voice in the Gabriel style (as you would expect as the singer in ReGenesis). They happened to be playing in Sheffield where I live and so I went along (a terrific gig, by the way) and said hello. It turned out Tony was a keen flute player and knew my playing. He recorded Dreamtown for me and sang it so well that I never did make that phone call.

GNC: Who is Nick Clabburn?
John: That is a question that Nick Clabburn has been asking himself for many years! Actually, he is a friend of mine who was around during the early Genesis days - a strict vegan, who wishes it be known that no animals were harmed during the writing of these lyrics! I have to say that without Nick's lyrics there would probably have been no album - they really were the starting point for the songs - full of atmosphere and inspirational.

GNC: Why is there no flute playing on the album?
John:  I did try flute on a couple of tracks - Dust and Winter, but somehow it didn't seem to fit. I think, as I was saying earlier, I was driven by the words, not the instrumental side. Maybe also there was a feeling of trying a new approach to freshen up my creativity and I have to say it was liberating - that is not to say I will not play some rock flute in future.

GNC: It seems the CD has received very positive feedback so far - so do you have in mind to do another rock album again? When? What style?
John: Yes, the reaction so far has been fantastic. To be honest, far better than I had expected, and I am very grateful for all the e-mails I have received from all over the world with generous and encouraging comments - it really does make it all feel worthwhile. Yes, I would love to do another rock album, but first I must have strong material - so I hope that more brilliant lyrics by Nick start arriving soon.

GNC: Do you have any other record plans like i.e. for a classic album again?
John: I may do another classical album in the next few years, but it would have to be something that really inspired me. I have played so much classical music in my career that, at the moment, I'm more drawn to trying out new ideas.

GNC: What about live performances (in Germany) either with the classic or with the rock songs repertoire (or both in combination)?
John: Yes, just this weekend we have been discussing the possibilities of some live gigs in the UK in July and September. Of course, I have never sung in public before so it is a big step for me, but exciting, very exciting. I would love to find myself "Checking into Germany" with the album - but I would also include some flute repertoire, maybe some of Steve's pieces that I still love to play, like "Hands of the Priestess". As soon as anything is finalised details will be on my website: In the meantime, I'm delighted to say, I will be coming to Germany in June with the Steve Hackett Acoustic Trio. Check out Steve's website for details.

Further reading:

| John Hackett - Checking Out Of London - CD review


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